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Smoke Effect in Final Cut PRO

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Constantinos Savva
Smoke Effect in Final Cut PRO
on Apr 23, 2018 at 6:58:20 am

Hello professionals. I need your advice. Trying to create smoke effect in a video very similar to bicycle scene in music video "Get Low" where the bicycle appears from inside smoke. Any suggestion for a plugin to do this? Thanks in advance


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Mark Suszko
Re: Smoke Effect in Final Cut PRO
on Apr 23, 2018 at 7:17:33 pm

Yes, you plug 1400 dollars into the account of a stage hand with a fog machine. ☺

You are not likely to be happy with trying to make this work in post production. But let's say that for some reason, it just can't be shot practically with smoke and fog machines on set. What would *I* try?

A lot depends on what your footage looks like. Did you shoot it against a green screen, or at lest against a white or black wall or curtain? Or do we first have to rotoscope the bike and rider out of their background? If you have not yet shot this scene, then get real smoke and/or fog for this and save a lot of grief.

I'm going to assume it was shot on a blacktop lot with a blown-out white light backdrop. Because that will make it less impossible.

First off, I would export my raw bike and rider footage from Final Cut into Apple Motion. You can also do this in AfterEffects, but I'm more comfortable in Motion.

The next thing we need will be some "plate shots". That is, a background or two.

The plate shots here will be of smoke clouds, both still and motion footage. You can generate some of this in Motion using it's particle system. Or find stock footage of thick, billowing smoke, with an alpha channel. You'll need the alpha channel for this.

Now we set up the shot in virtual 3-d space, with the plate in the background, the bike and rider in the middle of the "sandwich", and a front couple of layers of smoke.

We're going to exploit a feature of the 3-d camera in Motion's 3-d space. You can adjust the distance over which things are visible to the camera, kind of like depth of field/ depth of focus in a normal camera. Only in this camera, when an object goes out of the defined range, it doesn't just get more blurry; it goes invisible.

So, if you set that distance right, then angle the plane with the bike shot and key-frame it to move in and out of the visible range, you can add keyed layers of cloud smoke to pass in front of and behind this to help make a smooth transition.

The biker footage would also benefit from key-framed effects regarding the application of blur and grain.

Without having actual footage to see and play with, this is about as far as I can go in describing my approach. It will take a lot of time and work to make this come off and it still won't exactly look the same. If more than half of the terms I used sound like jibber-jabber to you, you don't yet have the technical experience to make this work.

Now you see why renting the fogger was a better deal.


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Constantinos Savva
Re: Smoke Effect in Final Cut PRO
on Apr 24, 2018 at 3:54:43 am

First of all, Mark Suszko, thank you for taking the time to write this extremely thorough reply. Indeed half of what you said were jibber jabber to me but from what i understand is basically think of 2d scene and create layers in order to achieve my result.

Also renting a fogger would be the better deal which i might do but thanks for all the information on how to set up the scene.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Smoke Effect in Final Cut PRO
on Apr 24, 2018 at 2:14:32 pm

It's not true 3-d, I like to call it: "2-and-a-half-D". They are 2-d planes, like panes of painted glass, inside a 3-d volume of space, like a fish tank. But if you get the proportions and angles right, it fools the eye pretty well.

As to the fog/smoke, I usually buy some smokebombs every fourth of July and store them in a secure container in case I need smoke some other time of the year. To get the level of smoke and fog in "Get Low", you'd probably have to use professional grade rented smoke machines, a brand-new, never-used, pesticide fogger, or military surplus smoke marker "grenades". Not only that, but if you shoot that scene outdoors, the wind is going to rapidly dissipate the smoke unless the shooting space is confined with wind barricades of some sort. One of the reasons the scene is in slo-mo is that the smoke/fog only probably lasted thirty seconds or less in real time, before it blew away.

Ideally you would shoot that scene in a wind-less, indoor space like a hangar, parking garage, warehouse, something of that sort. And that much smoke or fog will certainly draw attention, maybe even false fire alarms, unless you take steps with the authorities first.

Things that seem simple, often are not.


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Constantinos Savva
Re: Smoke Effect in Final Cut PRO
on Apr 28, 2018 at 3:11:44 am

Thank you Mark! You have been a big help.


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: Smoke Effect in Final Cut PRO
on Apr 27, 2018 at 6:08:27 pm

You might find this Motion tutorial using on creating volumetric fog:







Simon Ubsdell
tokyo productions
hawaiki


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Constantinos Savva
Re: Smoke Effect in Final Cut PRO
on Apr 28, 2018 at 3:10:50 am

Thank you Simon for the link!


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